SPECIAL PENSION BENEFITS FOR OUR SENIOR VETERANS AND SPOUSES 10/7/15

Each year on Veterans Day, we should all take a moment to reflect on our US veterans. We need to thank each one for their service knowing they protect our country and sometimes have to sacrifice themselves on our behalf. When our veterans grow old and need assistance with their daily activities, the Veterans Administration can provide monetary support. Many veterans and surviving spouses are not aware that these benefits exist. Unfortunately, the Veterans Administration does not publicize these benefits, and they should.

The veteran's assistance program goes back to 1636 when Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony fought with the Pequot Indians. The Pilgrims enacted a law from English law that reads, If any man shall be sent forth as a soldier and shall return maimed, he shall be maintained competently by the colony during his life.@ In 1789 U. S. congress passed as law that pensions were to be provided to disabled veterans and their dependents and in 1811 the first domiciliary and medical facility for veterans was completed.

Aid and attendance" is a commonly used term for this little-known veteran's disability income. The official title of this benefit is "Pension." The reason for using "aid and attendance" to refer to Pension is that many veterans or their single surviving spouses can become eligible if they have a regular need for the aid and attendance of a caregiver or if they are housebound. Evidence of this need for care must be certified by VA as a "rating." With a rating, certain veterans or their surviving spouses can qualify for Pension.

There are different income categories for Pension, but the highest could pay as much as $2,120 a month in income to a qualifying veteran with a spouse. A single veteran could receive as much as $1,788 per month. The surviving spouse of a veteran could receive as much as $1,149 a month. A study commissioned by VA in 2001 estimated that over the next 14 years, only about 30% of eligible veterans or spouses would apply for Pension. In actuality, about one-third of all US seniors age 65 and older could become eligible for Pension under the right circumstances. That's how many elderly war veterans or their surviving spouses there are.

To receive Pension, a veteran must have served on active duty at least 90 days, with at least one of those days during a declared period of war. There must be a discharge under conditions other than dishonorable. The veteran or surviving spouse must need the assistance of another in order to take care of their daily needs. Another qualification requirement is that the annual household income must be less than the annualized maximum Pension benefits. However, a special provision does allow the annual household income to be reduced by 12 months worth of future, recurring medical expenses. These allowable, annualized medical expenses are such things as insurance premiums, ongoing prescription drug costs, out-of-pocket cost of monthly medical equipment rental, the cost of home care, the cost of paying adult children to provide care, the cost of adult day services, the cost of assisted living and the cost of a nursing home facility. These are all considered medical costs and they can be deducted from income to receive this benefit. Additionally, there are asset limitations in order to qualify. The applicant can have no more than a house, a car, cemetery plot, prepaid funeral arrangements, personal items and approximately $80,000 in other assets for a married couple and no more than about $40,000 in other assets for a single person.

If you have excessive assets and income or are not sure how to apply medical deductions, use the services of a qualified certified elder law attorney who is accredited with the VA. Plus, please let others know of this underutilized Pension benefit. Our veterans deserve to know.